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Endgame Fundamentals: Opposition

By Donny Gray

In chess, opposition is when the two kings face each other and have only one square between them. In such a situation, the player not having to move is said to have the opposition. This usually happens in endgames, but can happen during the middle game as well.

There are several types of opposition.  You can have direct, diagonal, or distant opposition. Today we will look at the most basic: the direct.

Usually having the opposition is a good thing. It normally causes your opponent to either give way to important squares that allow you to win, or keeps him from doing bad things to you! The first example can either be good or bad. Just depends on whose move it is at the time.



If it is Black’s move, White wins easily.

  1.  … Kf7
  2.  Kd6

And now the pawn cannot be stopped from queening.

However, if it is White’s move, then Black can draw by opposition.

1. Kd5 Kd7

This is a dead draw, since if white ever pushes his pawn up, then Black can draw as we saw in an earlier column.

The next example is what you might call the ultimate opposition position.




White can win this, but at first it seems to be impossible. If White could just get close to his pawns he could win easily. But wherever White moves, Black opposes him so he can never get close to his pawns.

1. Kc8 Kc6
2. Kd8 Kd6
3. Ke8 Ke6
4. Kf8 Kf8
5. Kg8 Kg6
6. Kh8!

Not 6. c5? as now the Black King can go back and catch the pawn. However, now if Black tries to oppose the White King

6. Kh8 Kh6??


7. c5 will queen as the Black King is too far away.

So play continues…

6. Kh8 Kf6

He had to back away, so this allows White to come towards his pawns slowly but surely.

7. Kh7 Kf7

Still opposing the King

8. Kh6 Kf6
9. Kh5 Kf5
10. Kh4 Kh4

Black can still oppose White way over here, because if White ever tries to push his pawn, Black can stop it.

11. Kh3

Finally!!  Black can no longer oppose him, since if Kf3 the c pawn can queen.

11.  … Kf5

Black has to back off.

12. Kg3

Now White can make it to his pawns where the win is easy. I will leave the rest of the win for the reader to play out for practice.

Now as we close let’s look at an example of direct opposition in GrandMaster play. Not many players can say they were up a pawn against Bobby Fischer in an ending. But even up the pawn, GM Gligoric still could not win, as Fischer used direct opposition on him.



GM Svetozar Gligoric vs. GM Bobby Fischer, 1959


Here GM Gligoric has just played Kc4 but Fischer drew with…

1. … Kb8!

Now no matter where White goes, he can oppose him. The game continued.

2. Kc5 Kc7
3. Kb5 Kb7
4. Ka5 Ka7
Draw agreed



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